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December 22, 2011 6:16 pm
Portuguese workers are fleeing to Brazil to take up jobs in areas such as construction in their country’s former colony, as thousands of Europeans look to escape surging unemployment and the economic crisis back home.
The number of two-year work visas given to Portuguese nationals more than tripled in the first nine months of this year from 2010, while the total number of foreigners given authorisation to work in Brazil surged 33 per cent to just over 51,000, according to new government data.
Solid economic growth of more than 3 per cent this year and the offer of some of the world’s highest salaries is luring more foreigners to Brazil, reversing decades of mass emigration and underlining the shift of economic power to the Bric countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Brazil’s government is also under pressure to open the doors to more foreign workers to help ease wage inflation in the tight domestic labour market, exploit its huge oil reserves, and speed up infrastructure projects before hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later.
“They mostly work in industrial areas, infrastructure and technology; they are professionals who aren’t available in Brazil and who have helped the development of our country,” said Paulo Sérgio de Almeida, the immigration co-ordinator at Brazil’s labour ministry, which released the data late on Wednesday.
“The huge majority just come on a temporary basis,” he said. Demand for work visas has risen particularly fast among European countries, especially Portugal, where workers have been hard hit by austerity measures and found it easier to come to Brazil because of family connections and the common language.
Portuguese workers ranked third behind the US and China in terms of the number of two-year work visas given out in the first nine months of this year. That compares to eighth place in the same period last year.
The Portuguese are also more likely to stay. Wednesday’s data show that the number of Portuguese nationals who were granted permanent work visas, which are traditionally hard to acquire in Brazil, surged 69 per cent to 227 in the first nine months of this year.
However, demand is widespread among Europeans. The number of Germans who were given visas for three-month contract work in Brazil rose 86 per cent from last year, while authorisations for two-year stays rose 31 per cent.
“The situation right now is much more positive here. People are overloaded with self-confidence,” said Bernhard Lippsmeier, a corporate lawyer who moved to São Paulo earlier this year.
“A friend of mine who works for a business school also just came,” he said, adding that there was now a strong German community in São Paulo.
“I even managed to buy some German marmalade in a supermarket yesterday.”
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